11/26/2016 06:11 EST | Updated 11/27/2017 00:12 EST

Talks between NS teachers union and province fall apart as strike looms

HALIFAX — Contract negotiations between the Nova Scotia Teachers Union and the provincial government have broken down.

Premier Stephen McNeil told reporters Saturday that the teachers walked away from the bargaining table after rejecting the province's offer totalling $41 million, including $21 million in wages and $10 million in each of the last two years of the four-year proposal. 

McNeil says the teachers union's ask would total around $500 million — including $140 million in wages and $340 million for working conditions — which is "not sustainable" given the state of the provincial economy.

He says a sticking point between the two parties has been the teachers' long service award, a one-time payout upon retirement based on salary and the number of years worked, which would cost $28 million according to the province's estimates.

McNeil says teachers have generous pension plans, health benefits, and accumulate 195 sick days over their career and that the educators' demands are not in line with the rest of the public sector.

The premier says the province is eager to resume talks with NSTU representatives, but are looking into "opportunities for childcare" in the event of a strike.

NSTU president Liette Doucet said in a statement Friday that the province is "unwilling" negotiate working conditions into their collective agreement and that teachers are looking for more than "empty promises and rhetoric."

Doucet said job action is "likely" on Dec. 5.